Every year I look forward to photographing this wonderful event, and every time I’m taken by it as if for the first time. Like so many others, I love Greece’s history and how from ancient times through the present, it has added centrally to our lives and to the culture of the whole world. Its meaning is very large, including how its people met challenge after challenge, finally winning a hard fought independence from the Ottoman Turks in 1821.
(Click photos to enlarge.)
I was particularly affected by the expressions of the people around me as they showed great pride, not hubris, including in their gestures, as they marched up Fifth Avenue, or watched from the sidelines. I was taken by the array of costumes that spanned many centuries of Greek history and how proudly the people wore them. I hope what I witnessed this day encourages the people of Greece to meet what they are enduring today, with the kind of persistence for justice that they have shown. It will encourage all of us. I quote a poem, along with its note, by the esteemed poet and historian Eli Siegel which stirs me greatly. The poem, a translation of Simonides (556—468 BC), is an honoring of those who fell at the battle of Thermopylae (480 BC).
At Thermopylae, By Simonides of Ceos
Translation by Eli Siegel
O stranger, tell the Lacedaemonians
That we lie here, true to their laws.
From THE POEMS LOOKED AT: or, NOTES: At Thermopylae, By Simonides of Ceos. 1967. The two lines of Simonides of Ceos, translated here, have been translated often. I felt that free verse, casual and falling carefully, might do something useful with the Greek. There is a high, sharp sadness in “O stranger,” followed by an inevitable request in the Greek; and this I aim for, in the first line. In the second line there is the lasting submission of “That we lie here,” followed by the large pride of “true to their laws.” Government and pathos merge delicately and mightily in the second line. And as the Lacedaemonians are told, the telling goes on to and for everyone—for the everyone of now, the person of now. Simonides shows us this is how he saw it; this is how, as poet, he desired it.
From Hail, American Development (Deﬁnition Press)
© 1968 by Eli Siegel
To see more photos click here.